Running and Stomping All Over Gotham
Batman Returns (1993 Amiga)
And here we are, the last of the games directly based on Batman Returns, the last to support that film whole it was making the rounds. Companies fought over the licensing rights, with different groups handling different systems. And as the rush died out, and Batman Returns quietly exited theaters far more quickly than Warner Bros. likely expected, we get this Amiga game to finish everything out.
I'll be honest, when I decided to start covering all the BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen. games, I knew there'd be a lot of them but I didn't realize just how many. You look at the list of the character's games and there are a ton, for sure, but then I found that many of the titles had different versions, that played in different ways, and the sudden depth of just what I was in for boggled my mind. I didn't expect so many games based on the Tim Burton films, but each system essentially got its own title, and soon we were in deep trying to cover every variant and every alternative. We may still run into that, even beyond Batman Returns, but the game industry did change and companies were smarter about snatching up all the rights to a franchise (and then developing similar games for all systems), such that these kinds of multi-game, multi-system releases will retreat into our rear view.
But before we can get to that we have to clear out this one last title, the last of the Batman Returns games. Brought to us by Konami, and developed by Denton Designs, the game is, well, just another brawler. It's different from the others that we've seen, not taking cues from any of the other games, but we still end up at largely the same place with largely the same kind of game, even if details do play out differently.
The game follows the basic outline of Batman Returns, as we've seen so many times before. The evil circus gang that Penguin hires goes for Gotham, and Batman has to fight them back. In the process the Ice Princess is kidnapped, and Penguin tries, and fails, to frame Batman for her eventual death. Batman has to chase Penguin through the city, and down into the depths of the icy Arctic section of the Gotham Zoo, all so he can stop Penguins nefarious (and increasingly drastic) plans. Oh yeah, and CatwomanOnce a thief (but a pretty damn good one) and rogue of the Bat-man, Catwoman went from villain to anti-hero as she found love with the man that once pursued her. is here, feeling just as tacked on in this title as she did in so many others from this fleet of games.
The Amiga version of Batman Returns is a started linear brawler. Batman explores the city along flat, two-dimensional stages. There's no depth to the field of play, unlike in TMNT: The Arcade Game, Double Dragon, so all you have to do is worry about negotiating Batman along a straight line. There are platforms to jump on, and some amount of platforming as the game moves through its stages, but you don't have to worry about depth of field and negotiating around packs of guys in this version.
With that said, you do have to fight everyone in the game. Like many brawlers before it, the goal of the game is to defeat everyone and everything in front of you (and that includes some bats and one particularly pesky dog as well). The stages are really broken up into screens, and each screen is filled with enemies. You have to kill them all before the screen will progress into the next section, and then you have to defeat those guys as well. And on and on until the game is over.
This isn't do bad, but there are two real issues that keep this whole grind from being interesting. The first issue is that the game loves to spam enemies. Even in he first screen the game throws out four enemies at a time, and Batman has to take out all of them as they're jumping around dealing damage. This grows tedious quickly, but is only exacerbated by the fact that the enemies get reused a lot. The game only has a handful of enemies, with a selection of them only showing up in a few instances or a single stage. You'll see clowns a lot in the first half, penguins a lot in the second half (yes, batman has to kick the crap out of penguins, too), and not a lot of variety in between.
Meanwhile, the game doesn't play that well. Oh, Batman is smoothly animated, as are many other characters in the game, but the developers didn't quite have a handle on hit boxes or hit detection. There are times where it's clear Batman should have hit an enemy and doesn't, but there's also instances where the enemies are nowhere nearby and everyone takes damage. This, on top of the enemy spam, can make it difficult to make progress in the game unless you resort to cheesy strategies to get through all the encounters.
Mercifully, the game is short. Consisting of four main stages, the game gets in and gets out quickly. If there were more variety to the game, with more to do that beat on the same enemies over and over, I might actually have wanted more. But with only about twenty minutes of real game play, the game does feel criminally short. Of course, since it's not that much fun to play, as least it ends quickly. I would have preferred a better experience, but a short one will due all things considered.
With all that said, the one area I can't fault the game is on presentation. For its time the Amiga was known for its graphics and sound capabilities. This was a computer prized by gamers and designers alike, and that was down to its smooth, high color graphics and a nice and reliable sound system. The look of Batman Returns on the Amiga has its faults (like Batman not really looking all that great, despite his smooth animation), but by and large the game is graphically rich and nicely detailed. The music is also solid, with a fair bit of depth to is sound files. There is only one song that plays through all the stages, and boss encounters, but the cut-scenes and opening title have other songs, and overall the music has just enough variety to not get too tedious. It works.
All things being equal, this really isn't the worst version of Batman Returns we've seen. Not by a long shot. However, the Konami name attached to a brawler does imply a certain level of quality, and on that front this game is lacking. This is a fine, competent brawling game from most companies, but after their NES and SNES, this version of Batman Returns pales in comparison. It's hard not to expect more from the Konami name, and this Amiga title simply comes up lacking.